March 1987

Coma Following Use of Rubbing Alcohol for Fever Control

Author Affiliations

Division of Infectious Diseases The Children's Memorial Hospital 2300 Children's Plaza Chicago, IL 60614
Department of Pediatrics Wyler Children's Hospital University of Chicago 5841 S Maryland Ave Chicago, IL 60637

Am J Dis Child. 1987;141(3):237-238. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1987.04460030015001

Sir.— The topical use of isopropyl alcohol for fever control in children was once on accepted pediatric practice. Since the late 1950s, this practice has been discouraged following reports of neurotoxic effects that include stupor, narcosis, coma, and even death.1,2 Unfortunately, sponging with rubbing alcohol remains a fairly common method for fever control in children in some communities. We describe a patient with coma secondary to sponging with isopropyl and discuss the clinical clues for the diagnosis.

Patient Report.—Fever to 40°C developed in a previously healthy 18-month-old girl while she was being treated with amoxicillin for otitis media. In an attempt to lower her temperature, her mother repeatedly wrapped towels absorbed with rubbing alcohol around the child's waist for periods of up to four hours. The child became progressively lethargic and ultimately unresponsive to verbal and tactile stimulation. At the time she arrived at our intensive care unit, she was unconscious and unresponsive to pain, with midline fixed miotic pupils,

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